We’re going to go out on a limb here and say that there’s probably not many men in this world who drink their coffee out of a mug plastered with a sexy cartoon version of their wife. But that’s just the kind of swag you get when you’re married to Megan Hilty. The actress wraps her role as the hilariously ditzy and scantily-clad Brooke Ashton in Roundabout’s hit Noises Off revival on March 13, and this mug serves as singer/songwriter Brian Gallagher’s daily reminder that his wife, and the mother of their one-and-half-year-old daughter, Viola, is the go-to blonde bombshell on the Broadway scene.
When Gallagher met Hilty in 2012—just before departing on the Jekyll and Hyde tour—he had no idea that she was currently starring as the Marilyn Monroe-wannabe, Ivy, in Smash, or that she had played Dolly Parton’s character in the musical version of 9 to 5 and Glinda in Wicked. He could only see the buxom blonde with the mega-watt smile crushing vodka sodas at the bar. Here the couple talks about how their chance meeting turned into marriage and a family band.
If you weren’t working together then how on earth did you meet in the Broadway scene?
Megan Hilty: We might be the first [A Fine Showmance] couple who didn’t actually work together before we started dating. We met through a mutual friend at a bar. Eden Espinosa [my Wicked co-star] introduced us.
What did you think when you came away from that conversation? Did you have a date planned?
BG: I was supposed to leave town two weeks later, so it worked out because there was no pressure really. I think she actually took my phone and put her phone number in it.
MH: There were a lot of drinks that night. There were a lot of vodka sodas. The details are blurry…
BG: You took my phone and put your phone number in it.
MH: [Laughs.] It’s true. I did.
BG: But since I was leaving town two weeks later it was sort of like, “Let’s hang out. There’s no pressure.” Neither of us were looking for a relationship. Both of us had just gotten out of very long-term relationships, so it was very casual, and I think that’s actually why it ended up working out.
It was a really busy time for Megan when you met since Smash just started to air. Brian, had you heard of Megan before you had met her?
BG: I had only heard her name before in the same way that you hear all sorts of people’s names. That first night at the bar a couple people approached her and asked about Smash. Of course I’d heard about Smash, but I hadn’t watched it yet, so I kind of looked at her at one point that first night and said, “What’s going on? Should I be Googling you or something?”
MH: I was like, “Please don’t Google me!”
Brian, did you Google her when you got home?
BG: I actually didn’t. That first night went so well and we had such a good time that I didn’t want to Google her and see how much she out-credited me. I didn’t want to be intimidated next time we were together shootin’ the s***.
How did your relationship progress when Brian left?
BG: I was supposed to do a show in Las Vegas two weeks after we’d met, but I didn’t end up leaving until four weeks later.It was kind of the first test, like are we both actually serious?
MH: Yeah, I missed him…
Did you guys see each other a lot when Brian went on tour with Jekyll and Hyde?
MH: I’d go see him on the weekends. I probably shouldn’t have because we were filming Smash at the time, and he came home on almost all of the Mondays. At that point we just didn’t want to be away from each other. We kept saying it proved that we really, really wanted to be together and [we decided] that we were never going to be apart like that again.
Sneaking in time and missing each other so much—that sounds pretty romantic.
MH: Absolutely. It was extremely romantic. One of the most romantic things that we did while he was away was “Skype sleep” together. We just kept Skype on all night so that we were technically in the same room together. I hope that doesn’t sound weird, but if you wake up in the middle of the night it’s nice because the other person is sort of there, snoring on the other end.
That is so sweet! And now you have little Viola. How have you been able to balance parenting and your stage careers?
BG: Since Jekyll and Hyde closed I’ve mostly just been writing music and playing guitar. I’m in the middle of recording my next album [out this summer], which is a concept album kind of thing. I spent seven months on the [Jekyll and Hyde] tour and at the end of that we decided that this can’t happen again. Our business is very difficult to exist in without going out of town a lot—even Broadway shows typically do an out-of-town tryout—so by doing the writing, or playing one-nighters, or selling albums, I’m sort of able to be wherever Megan is, and we play shows together all the time.
MH: We do tons of concerts all over the world now. It’s been so great, not only to be able to be with each other, but to be able to make music together. That sounds so corny! Please don’t say that we make music together. That’s awful.
BG: You can say that, but please acknowledge that we both acknowledge that it’s corny.
MH: [Laughs.] But it’s just really great to be onstage with him all the time.
What is that like? Do you ever look over and think, “Damn, that’s my husband!”
MH: All the time! What’s great is that our shows are very conversational. All of our shows feel—at least we hope they feel—like you’re in our living room.
BG: Our banter is always different. It legitimately feels like we’re just hanging out onstage.
MH: I think it makes for a much better show—more interesting anyways.
Do you have any good stories from the road?
BG: We had a show one night in Amarillo, TX.
MH: I was very pregnant.
BG: We were supposed to fly out the day before, but there was a huge storm and our flight got canceled. It looked like we were going to have to cancel the show, but they sent a private plane to Charlotte to pick us up. We were in the air when the show was supposed to start. When we landed there was a car waiting to pick us up and drive us to the venue.
MH: I was still wearing my maternity pants and shirt and a jean jacket. Somebody let me borrow heels at the theatre.
BG: The one thing she refused to do was to walk onstage without heels, so someone at the theatre provided her with heels. She literally walked onstage wearing a huge sweatshirt, jean jacket and heels.
MH: It wasn’t a sweatshirt. It was a nice maternity shirt. I didn’t look like a hobo or anything.
BG: You didn’t not look like a hobo.
What’s your favorite song to sing together?
MH: We do a cover of “Suddenly Seymour,” and I think that’s my favorite song that we sing.
BG: [One time] Megan was doing a benefit in San Francisco with Seth Rudetsky when Viola was only a few months old, and she was backstage with me. The plan was for me to leave the baby in the wings, in her stroller, and come out and sing “Suddenly Seymour.” She was supposed to be sleeping, but she woke up and was howling. There was no way to get her to stop howling other than rocking the stroller, so when they introduced me, I walked out onstage with the stroller and rocked her while we sang. Seth looked at me like, “What are you doing?” We laughed through the first half of the song, but eventually we figured it out.
I talk to a lot of couples who met doing a show together and were attracted to each other’s talent, but when you met, you didn’t really know if the other even had talent.
MH: We were doing karaoke one night and it was the first time I’d ever heard him sing. There was a small part of me that was like, “I’m so glad I fell for him before I heard him sing,” because otherwise it would have been a total talent crush, and I would have second guessed myself [as to whether] this was a real thing or not.
BG: It’s the same for me. I’m glad I hadn’t seen Smash or 9 to 5 or Wicked when she was in it, because I would have done the same thing.
MH: Our feelings had nothing to do with our talent.
BG: And had everything to do with the amount of booze we drank.